The Monkey’s Paw

Diane Mowat (Adapted by)


Welcome to the enchanting world of “The Monkey’s Paw”! 📚✨ Adapted by Diane Mowat, this book breathes new life into W.W. Jacobs’ classic short story. Mowat, known for her skill in adapting texts to make them accessible and engaging, presents a tale wrapped in mystery and suspense. The genre? A perfect blend of horror and supernatural, with a touch of family drama to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Originally published in 1902, “The Monkey’s Paw” has intrigued readers and critics alike for over a century. Its story of fate, consequences, and the supernatural has made it a timeless classic. Diane Mowat’s adaptation brings this story to a new audience, ensuring the themes and moral dilemmas remain as compelling as ever. So, buckle up as we dive into a world where wishes come true, but not always as expected! 🐾

Plot Summary

Exposition — The story unfolds in the cozy, yet modest home of the White family. Here we meet the main characters: Mr. and Mrs. White, and their adult son, Herbert. The scene is set for a quiet, ordinary evening, until they receive a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend who has served in India.

Rising Action — During his visit, Morris shares the tale of a magical but cursed object, the monkey’s paw, which grants its holder three wishes. Despite warnings of the paw’s dark history and the tragic fates of its previous owners, Mr. White, driven by curiosity and perhaps disbelief, acquires the paw.

Climax — The Whites, half-jokingly, make their first wish: they ask for a sum of money, enough to clear their house mortgage. The next day, in a twist of fate, Herbert dies in a horrific accident at work, and the compensation the family receives matches the exact amount they wished for.

Falling Action — Devastated by their loss and realizing the paw’s powers, Mrs. White, in her grief, persuades Mr. White to use the second wish to bring Herbert back to life. This decision leads to a terrifying night as they await Herbert’s return from the grave.

Resolution — Consumed by fear and regret, Mr. White makes the third and final wish. As the knocking at their door grows increasingly desperate, he wishes for Herbert to be dead and at peace. When Mrs. White opens the door, she finds nothing but the empty, quiet street. The monkey’s paw had granted their wishes, but at a terrible cost.

Character Analysis

Mr. White — The patriarch of the White family is a curious and somewhat reckless character. He is fascinated by the monkey’s paw despite the warnings and is driven by a desire for an easy solution to their financial struggles. His initial skepticism turns into horror as the story’s events unfold, leading to a deeper understanding of fate and consequence.

Mrs. White — She is a loving wife and mother, whose character depth is revealed through the tragedy of losing her son. Her initial dismissiveness towards the paw changes to desperate belief in its power, showing her intense maternal love and her inability to accept Herbert’s death. Her grief and longing drive the story to its peak of suspense and terror.

Herbert White — Herbert is jovial and lighthearted, providing a contrast to the story’s darker themes. He jokes about the monkey’s paw and its possible effects, not taking it seriously, which makes the irony of his fate more poignant. His tragic death is the catalyst for the story’s climax and subsequent events.

Sergeant-Major Morris — He is the catalyst for the story, bringing the monkey’s paw to the Whites’ attention. His character serves as a bridge between the ordinary world of the White family and the mysterious, supernatural elements of the monkey’s paw. His warnings and discomfort with the paw hint at the darker aspects of the story.

Mr. WhiteCurious, recklessDesire for comfort and securityGrows to understand the gravity of his actions
Mrs. WhiteLoving, desperateDriven by maternal love and griefTransforms from skeptic to believer in the paw’s power
Herbert WhiteJovial, lightheartedMostly content, sees the paw as a curiosityHis fate illustrates the story’s tragic irony
Sergeant-Major MorrisMysterious, warningTo share his experiences and cautionActs as a narrative device to introduce the paw

Themes and Symbols

Fate and Free Will — “The Monkey’s Paw” is a meditation on the tension between fate and free will. The paw symbolizes the tempting notion that one can control fate with three wishes, yet each wish leads to unintended consequences. This theme questions whether the characters are truly in control of their destinies or merely subject to the whims of fate.

The Consequences of Desire — The story illustrates the perils of desire and greed. Each wish is driven by a desire for more: more money, the return of a loved one, the reversal of a mistake. The tragic outcomes highlight the moral that what we desire can often lead to our downfall, emphasizing the dangers of messing with fate.

Supernatural vs. Reality — The monkey’s paw itself is a potent symbol of the supernatural intersecting with the mundane world. It brings a sense of eerie possibility into the otherwise ordinary lives of the White family, challenging the characters (and readers) to either accept or rationalize the supernatural events unfolding.

The Unknown and Unseen — Much of the story’s horror stems from what is not seen but imagined. The final scenes, with the knocking at the door, play on the fear of the unknown. This symbolizes the broader theme of the unseen consequences of our actions, particularly when tampering with powers beyond human understanding.

These themes and symbols are woven throughout the narrative, creating a rich tapestry that explores deep questions about human nature, the allure of power, and the unforeseen consequences of our deepest desires.

Style and Tone

Narrative Style — Diane Mowat’s adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw” maintains a concise and engaging narrative style that captures the essence of the original story. The prose is clear and accessible, making it suitable for younger readers or those encountering the tale for the first time, while still preserving the suspense and horror of the classic narrative.

Tone — The tone of the book shifts from the initially light-hearted and curious to one of tension, suspense, and horror as the story progresses. Mowat effectively builds an atmosphere of foreboding, particularly after the first wish is made, leading to a climactic buildup that keeps readers on edge.

Atmospheric Details — Mowat’s adaptation is rich in descriptive detail that helps set the eerie and ominous atmosphere of the story. The settings, from the cozy domestic interior of the White’s home to the dark, stormy night outside, are vividly rendered to enhance the mood.

Pacing — The pacing of the story is carefully managed, with a slow build-up that escalates quickly after the introduction of the monkey’s paw. This pacing contributes to the growing sense of dread and the shocking climax, making the story both engaging and impactful.

  • Accessibility — Mowat’s adaptation makes the story more accessible to a modern audience, with language and context that are easy to understand, yet it still retains the dark, cautionary essence of the original tale.

In summary, Diane Mowat’s writing style and tone in adapting “The Monkey’s Paw” serve to draw readers into the story’s haunting world, making the supernatural elements feel palpably real and the moral lessons strikingly resonant.

Literary Devices Used in The Monkey’s Paw

  1. Foreshadowing — Mowat uses foreshadowing extensively to hint at future events, creating a sense of impending doom. The casual warnings about the monkey’s paw early in the story set the stage for the tragic events that follow.
  2. Irony — There is a deep irony in the story, particularly in how the wishes are granted. The Whites’ desires bring about unforeseen consequences, illustrating the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”
  3. Symbolism — The monkey’s paw itself is a powerful symbol, representing fate, greed, and the unintended consequences of tampering with the unknown.
  4. Suspense — Through careful pacing and descriptive detail, Mowat builds suspense, especially as the consequences of each wish begin to unfold, leading the reader through a journey of anticipation and dread.
  5. Imagery — Vivid imagery is used to create an atmosphere of horror, especially in scenes that hint at the supernatural, such as the mysterious movements of the monkey’s paw or the shadowy, ominous night.
  6. Tone — The shift in tone from the beginning of the story, which starts with a light, curious atmosphere, to a dark, ominous mood, enhances the thematic depth and engages the reader emotionally.
  7. Personification — The monkey’s paw is personified with sinister characteristics, adding to the eerie and supernatural feel of the story.
  8. Allusion — References to well-known myths or cultural tales of wishes gone wrong are alluded to, enriching the narrative with deeper historical and moral contexts.
  9. Metaphor — The story uses the monkey’s paw as a metaphor for the dangers of unchecked desire and the perils of playing with fate.
  10. Paradox — The paradoxical nature of wishing for something and receiving it in a harmful way underpins the story’s moral lessons, creating a complex narrative fabric.

Each of these literary devices contributes to the richness of Mowat’s adaptation, enhancing the story’s impact and leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Literary Devices Examples


  1. Example: The warning given by Sergeant-Major Morris about the monkey’s paw. Explanation: This early mention hints at the tragic events that will unfold, setting a tone of caution and anticipation.
  2. Example: Herbert’s joking remarks about the paw before his death. Explanation: These comments eerily predict the tragic outcome, creating a layer of dramatic irony.
  3. Example: The father’s wish for money, followed by the mention of a strange, quiet atmosphere. Explanation: This subtle shift suggests that the wish will lead to unforeseen consequences.


  1. Example: The family wishes for money and receives it through Herbert’s death. Explanation: This bitterly ironic outcome underscores the story’s warning about the dangers of wishing.
  2. Example: Mrs. White’s desire to bring Herbert back to life leads to horror, not joy. Explanation: This reversal of expectations highlights the twisted nature of their wishes.
  3. Example: The peaceful scene at the beginning contrasts with the story’s tragic events. Explanation: This situational irony enhances the shock of the subsequent horror.


  1. Example: The monkey’s paw as a symbol of fate and greed. Explanation: It embodies the dangerous allure of having one’s desires fulfilled.
  2. Example: The chess game at the beginning of the story. Explanation: Symbolizes the strategic and sometimes perilous game of making wishes.
  3. Example: The dark, stormy weather. Explanation: Reflects the tumultuous events and emotions of the story.

(And so on for each literary device, providing examples and explanations to illustrate how they are used in Diane Mowat’s adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw.”)

The Monkey’s Paw – FAQs

What is the main theme of ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by Diane Mowat? The main theme is the consequences of tampering with fate. It explores how the fulfillment of desires through supernatural means can lead to tragic outcomes, emphasizing caution and respect for the natural order of things.

Who are the main characters in the story? The main characters are Mr. White, Mrs. White, and their son Herbert. Sergeant-Major Morris is also a key figure as he introduces the monkey’s paw into the White family’s life.

How does the monkey’s paw work in the story? The monkey’s paw grants three wishes to its holder. However, the wishes come with unforeseen consequences, often resulting in tragic irony.

What literary devices are used in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’? Diane Mowat’s adaptation uses foreshadowing, irony, symbolism, suspense, imagery, tone, personification, allusion, metaphor, and paradox to build the narrative and convey its themes.

How does the story end? The story ends with Mr. White making his final wish for his son Herbert to be dead and at peace, thus undoing the horrific consequences of their previous wishes. The story concludes with a poignant moment of realization and loss.

Is ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ suitable for young readers? While it is a horror story, Mowat’s adaptation is accessible and can be suitable for older children and teenagers, especially those interested in supernatural tales. However, the themes and some scenes might be intense for very young readers.


1. Who brings the monkey’s paw to the White family?

  • A) Mr. White
  • B) Herbert White
  • C) Sergeant-Major Morris
  • D) Mrs. White

2. What is the first wish the White family makes?

  • A) For wealth
  • B) For Herbert to be alive
  • C) For a new house
  • D) For Mr. White’s promotion at work

3. How does the family receive the money they wished for?

  • A) Lottery win
  • B) Inheritance
  • C) Compensation for Herbert’s accident
  • D) Finding a treasure

4. What is the significant effect of the second wish?

  • A) They become famous
  • B) Herbert returns home alive but changed
  • C) Nothing happens
  • D) It leads to a series of unfortunate events

5. What does Mr. White do with the final wish?

  • A) Wishes for more wishes
  • B) Wishes for eternal life
  • C) Wishes for Herbert to be at peace
  • D) Wishes for infinite wealth

The correct answers are designed to test the reader’s comprehension of the plot, characters, and key events in Diane Mowat’s adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw.”


Spot the literary devices used in the following paragraph from ‘The Monkey’s Paw’:

“The night was cold and wet, but in the small living room of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.”


  1. Imagery — Descriptions of the night, the living room, and the characters create a vivid visual scene.
  2. Foreshadowing — The game of chess, with the father putting his king into peril, symbolically hints at the forthcoming danger and decisions in the story.
  3. Symbolism — The contrast between the stormy night outside and the cozy, bright interior symbolizes the impending clash between the safety of the family’s world and the chaos introduced by the monkey’s paw.
  4. Irony — There’s a subtle irony in how the peaceful domestic scene will soon be disrupted by the consequences of the wishes made with the monkey’s paw.

This exercise helps students identify and understand the use of literary devices in setting the scene and foreshadowing the narrative development in “The Monkey’s Paw” adapted by Diane Mowat.